Sunday, December 04, 2005

Dirty Laundry...

I went to the laundromat today just like I do about every other Sunday. I go to the same one each time because it's clean and the lady that runs it is very nice. It's just me so I can wash & dry all my clothes in an hour. I always bring a book and pretty much keep to myself. I'm shy and don't usually start conversations with strangers. Not so shy that I won't speak if spoken to, but shy enough that more often than not I don't say a single word while I'm there.

Although I always bring my book, I'm a multi-tasker so I'm people watching while I'm reading. I'm told I have a sweet smile and maybe that's the reason why it never fails that my reading will be interrupted by a tiny hand on my arm, my knee, or even in the middle of my book. Mostly curious toddlers with angelic faces. No conversation needed. Just a shared smile before the toddle off. The bolder ones will peek around the corner at me later or even come back.

Usually their caretaker is not far behind them, but occasionally I never see anyone coming to fetch them back to safety. When I do see a caretaker, they often don't see me as a threat at all even though I am a stranger. It's a frightening thought. I am harmless, but what if I were not? Several times I could have had the unprotesting child into my car and miles away before they would have been missed. And I could have done it without the lure of candy or treats. Okay, maybe the children sense that I'm a good person and that I mean them no harm. But should we be trusting the instincts of a two year old?

My best friend has a nephew who is much older than a toddler, but not quite a pre-teen. We don't often get to go do things alone, but when we do I can honestly tell you that he doesn't leave my sight except to go into the bathroom. He's too old to go into the ladies' room with me, but you can bet my eyes never leave the men's room door until he comes out and I can tell you exactly how long he's been in there. He's not my child, but when we are out together he is in my charge and I would never take that responsibility lightly.

So why are there so many parents out there that just let their kids roam free? And not just laundromats either. I see it in stores and malls. Crowded places just made for stealing or harming someone's child. Do they think that just because everyone is there to do their laundry or to shop that they'll be too busy to harm a child? This isn't the movies. The bad guys don't wear black hats. Creepy music doesn't suddenly play when they enter the scene. And more importantly, Bruce Willis isn't going to suddenly come storming in and save their child BEFORE they are irreparably harmed.

You have to get a license to hunt or fish, but just anyone can have a kid. Even if they aren't prepared, capable, or even willing to keep them safe.

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